Summary and book reviews of A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

A Strangeness in My Mind

by Orhan Pamuk

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 624 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2016, 624 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

A modern epic of coming of age in a great city, a brilliant tableau of life among the newcomers who have changed the face of Istanbul over the past fifty years.

Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karata has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he'd hoped, at the age of twelve he comes to Istanbul - "the center of the world" - and is immediately enthralled by both the old city that is disappearing and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father's trade, selling boza (a traditional mildly alcoholic Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis. But luck never seems to be on Mevlut's side. As he watches his relations settle down and make their fortunes, he spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, he stumbles toward middle age in a series of jobs leading nowhere. His sense of missing something leads him sometimes to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the teachings of a charismatic religious guide. But every evening, without fail, Mevlut still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the "strangeness" in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.

Told from different perspectives by a host of beguiling characters, A Strangeness in My Mind is a modern epic of coming of age in a great city, a brilliant tableau of life among the newcomers who have changed the face of Istanbul over the past fifty years. Here is a mesmerizing story of human longing, sure to take its place among Pamuk's finest achievements.

The publisher is unable to provide an excerpt of this book to BookBrowse for copyright reasons. But a substantial excerpt is available at Google Books

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A Strangeness In My Mind brilliantly illuminates the difference between the happiness and contentment — for between these states of mind lies an entirely different mindset and attitude toward life that can make or break a man. And Mevlut, just like his beloved Istanbul, is nothing if not resilient — he knows how to take change squarely in the jaw and yet retain his essential indomitable spirit.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (954 words).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

It’s very funny, while also allowing into Mevlut’s tale the colorful voices and contending perspectives of the world around him . . . For Pamuk the vision of life as a complex web of knowable things provides a terrifically interesting way to write a book.

The Washington Post

One of Pamuk’s most enjoyable novels and an ideal place to begin for readers who want to get to know him . . . A love letter to modern Turkey.

The Chicago Tribune

Pamuk is such a skilled writer that he renders the most esoteric, seemingly banal topics fascinating . . . Strangeness is light and funny. Pamuk's perspective is generous. He takes a long view of history . . . a remarkable feat.

The Boston Globe

In the midst of the massive sprawl that is Istanbul, at the juncture of West and East, Pamuk uses a bickering crowd of family and friends to tell the story of a factious, ever-changing culture and its many points of discord.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This is a thoroughly immersive journey through the arteries of Pamuk's culturally rich yet politically volatile and class- and gender-divided homeland.

Booklist

Starred Review. As his meditative hero walks the streets for five decades, balancing his wooden yoke on his shoulders, Pamuk, a deeply compassionate and poetic writer, illuminates 'dreadful and dazzling' Istanbul's violent upheavals and ceaseless metamorphosis, women's struggles for freedom, and the strange vicissitudes of love.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Although depicting a faraway land, the novel's central concerns are human nature, communication, and interpersonal relationships, and this great writer explores these themes with a universal warmth, wit, and intelligence.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Rich, complex, and pulsing with urban life: one of this gifted writer's best.

The Economist (UK)

A textured and rewarding narrative . . . Some of the most memorable chapters are interior monologues from women who, every day, must negotiate defiance and deferral to their men and their in-laws . . . [Pamuk] chooses multiple perspectives over moral judgment, which allows him to focus on the inner lives of his characters as they shape the city that, in turn, shapes them.

The Financial Times (UK)

Beautifully done, suffused with a nostalgic light . . . A study of urban modernisation and a lament for a time before the single-mindedness of reformers.

The Independent (UK)

Magnificent . . . [a] sprawling story that Pamuk tells, and Ekin Oklap translates, with panache . . . At the same time as posing philosophical questions about the importance of intentions over outcomes, Pamuk celebrates marriage, parenthood and even quarrelsome extended family . . . [He] is becoming that rare author who writes his best books after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Guardian (UK)

Above all a love letter to the city in all its faded, messy, dusty glory . . . a vast collection of characters, events, houses, food, objects that, the reader realises at the end of 600 pages, are summed up in the name Istanbul.

The Sunday Times (UK)

Warm and gently engrossing . . . the story of modern Istanbul, of how a decaying, mixed, cosmopolitan city has been massively expanded and transformed by poor migrants from Anatolia. It has a political dimension . . . but at its heart, this is a novel about work, love and family.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Cyprus: Divided Loyalties

One of the many historical events that are featured glancingly in A Strangeness in My Mind is the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Cypriot demonstrationFor a long time Cyprus was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which arguably explains why Turkey considered it its own, even after the Ottoman Empire handed over governance of the island to Great Britain in 1878 in a secret agreement that exchanged Cyprus for Britain's support of the Ottoman's cause in settling boundary issues in the Balkans. In 1914 Britain annexed Cyprus and, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus became a Crown Colony in 1925.

Cyprus's mix of ethnic Greeks and Turks lived in shaky peace as a British colony, but increasing nationalistic rhetoric from both Turkey and Greece ...

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